Tooth Fairy Economics

Tooth Fairy Economics

The Rising Cost Of Parenting

“Dad, why does the tooth fairy give money for teeth?” Like all five-year-olds, my son Arthur was nothing if not inquisitive.

I paused. I’d been through the standard Santa Claus questions and could discuss rocket-powered sleighs and how Santa could ingest a few hundred million cookies without throwing up. But I’d never given much thought to how the Tooth Fairy got things done.

“Uh….She takes the teeth and re-sells them,” I said.

“Why does she re-sell them?”

“To make money.”

“Why does she need to make money?”

At this point, I should have heeded my wife’s advice to always ask: “Why do YOU think?” That would have stopped the conversation dead in its tracks while Arthur gave his opinion or said he didn’t know.

But of course, I didn’t do that.

Instead, armed with an arsenal of college degrees and the smug idea that I could satisfy a five-year-old’s curiosity, I chose to ignore the advice of a woman who volunteers at school, spends afternoons entertaining the boys without any help, and also watches my sister’s pre-K children — for fun.

“She makes money selling them to elves who need small teeth,” I replied.

“Why don’t the elves have any teeth?”

“They do, but they occasionally lose them so they buy baby teeth.”

“Why do they buy baby teeth?”

“Your teeth are baby teeth to you,” I replied. “But the elves are small, so your baby teeth fit them.”

“Why are elves small?”

By this time I’d pretty much had enough. Fun was fun, but honestly: how long could a guy be expected to discuss fairies and elves?

“I don’t know, Arthur,” I said, exasperated. “Why do you think?”

I admit it. My wife was right. Turning the question around ended it. Arthur went to bed satisfied, with his tooth stashed in a makeshift paper envelope under his pillow.

Later, when I mentioned the conversation to my wife, she had a few questions of her own.

“Did you tell him he spins it into gold?” she asked.


“Yes ‘he’,” she said. “Don’t you remember the Santa Clause movies? The tooth fairy’s a guy. You’re going to confuse him.”

Of course, I’d forgotten—it’s not like I really watched those movies (was I supposed to?) I assured her Arthur hadn’t noticed and went on with my tale, only to be interrupted again.

“You turned the tooth fairy into an American?”

“Huh?” What was the woman getting at anyway? “I just made him a capitalist. I’m a banker. What did you expect?”

Flash forward to the next morning. With bills firmly in hand, Arthur ate his breakfast and talked about what toys he planned to buy with his new tooth fairy booty. But when he zeroed in on a certain Power Ranger, my wife and I had to burst his bubble.

“Arthur, you don’t have enough money to buy that toy. You’ll need to save your money.”

At that point, our older son, Andrew, piped up. “Arthur, I can lend you the money,” he said.

My wife and I were astonished. We stared at Andrew, proud enough to burst. Until he added: “You can pay me back with money on future teeth.”

That was a year ago. Since then Arthur has lost five more teeth and has another one ready to drop at any moment. And believe it or not, he’s more excited about this one than the first: It’s the last one he needs to pay his brother back.

The tooth fairy may not be a capitalist, but his clients sure are!

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